Signs & symptoms of arthritis in fingers

Written by phyllis benson
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Arthritis affects one in five people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, arthritis limits activities of nearly 19 million adults. The disease strikes at any age and any part of the body, primarily affecting bones, joints and connective tissue. When arthritis affects fingers, the joint disease causes problems in ordinary tasks at home and work. Typically, signs and symptoms of finger arthritis are due to ageing, rheumatic disease or injury.


Be alert to the signs and symptoms of finger arthritis. The American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) reports that three major types of arthritis commonly affect fingers: osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and post-traumatic arthritis. Symptoms of recurring pain in the fingers or signs of swelling in the joints are markers for arthritis.


Ageing is a factor for osteoarthritis. Joint cartilage and bone wear away. Repeated movements over years remove the smooth surfaces and may tear protective cartilage. Your bones can grind together and feel gritty during finger flexing. Bumps form at the middle and end finger joints as typical signs of OA. An inflamed thumb base joint, needed for grip and pinch movements, affects your finger coordination. Symptoms include clumsiness using keys, knobs or fasteners.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Keep your doctor informed of finger problems when you have rheumatoid arthritis. Though RA is a rheumatic disease of the whole body, the ASSH reports that two-thirds of patients develop hand arthritis. Typical RA symptoms include fatigue and awakening with hot and reddish joints. Signs include deformed fingers. Knuckles are usually affected in both hands. Symptoms include numbness and tingling. Tendons may rupture causing fingers to look angular or to collapse without support.

Post-Traumatic Arthritis

Watch for arthritis developing in old injuries. You may break a finger or sprain a knuckle. It appears to heal with no after-effects. The joint, bone or connecting tendons, however, have been damaged. The trauma causes vulnerability at the joint. Cartilage and bone deteriorate over time. Months or years later, the signs of post-traumatic arthritis appear. Your finger or knuckle is stiff, painful or inflamed. Signs of knuckle arthritis may develop as hard nodules or soft cysts that interfere with finger movement. A primary symptom of arthritis in a healed bone break is usually pain, especially in cold weather.


Choose therapy suited to your arthritis and its limitations on your activities. Signs of swollen joints and symptoms of pain indicate the body needs help. The ASSH recommends non-surgical treatment for mild to moderate arthritis. Symptoms of inflammation often ease with rest after activity. Analgesics in medication or ointments reduce swelling and pain. For many activities, gloves help the fingers by providing warmth and support. Finger splints at night or during repetitive movements support fingers and take strain off damaged joints. Surgery may be needed to relieve severe arthritis symptoms.

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